Known as Return of the Giant Monsters in the United States and Giant Monster Midair Battle: Gamera vs. Gyaos in Japan, Gamera vs. Gyaos made its debut in 1967. Directed by Noriaki Yuasa, this movie featured the flying creature known as Gyaos, which would go on to become one of Gamera’s most popular foes. Although the movie features a young protagonist as Gamera’s “friend,” the movie is quite violent, with Gamera suffering some intense wounds, including one that almost amputates one of her arms.
As with most Gamera movies, Gamera vs. Gyaos offers two concurrent plotlines. The monster plotline involves the waking of Gyaos, a bat-like creature that eats human beings and has a taste for blood. Awakened possibly by nearby construction of a highway, Gyaos takes down a helicopter using a sonic beam emitted from its beak-like mouth. Gamera is soon on the scene, and both monsters duke it out. Gamera is subsequently wounded and must retreat underwater to heal.
The Japanese Self-Defense Force then tackles Gyaos, but the monster proves too powerful, eradicating the military forces and making its way to the city of Nagoya, where it begins to wreak havoc—the creature even munches on some humans. Healed, Gamera comes to the rescue, attempting to hold Gyaos down while the sun rises (like a vampire, Gyaos can die after exposure to light). Rather than die, Gyaos sacrifices his own foot to escape—Gamera bites it off.
Scientists then study the severed foot and discover that is shrinks when exposed to light. The Self-Defense Force builds a rotating platform and manufacture artificial blood to attract the creature. Once Gyaos lands on the platform and begins to drink the artificial blood, the Self-Defense Force activates the platform so that it begins to rotate. Such rotation messes up the monster’s equilibrium, and so it remains on the platform as the sun begins to rise. At the last minute, Gyaos manages to escape. The movie’s climax has Gamera fight Gyaos one final time, with Gamera literally dragging the flying vampire into a volcano, where it burns to death.
The human plotline, which admittedly takes too much of the movie’s time, involves the local villagers wanting more money to sell their land to the development company building the highway. The villagers are so greedy that they are protesting the construction, with some of tem actually resorting to sabotage. The leader of these villagers, Tatsuemon Kanemaru (Kichijiro Ueda), has a son by the name of Eiichi (Naoyuki Abe), who has a special connection to Gamera. Looking like Russell from the movie Up, Eiichi is sure to annoy even the most patient of viewers.
Gamera vs. Gyaos once again offers an interesting monster for Gamera to fight. Gyaos is a hideous creation, a vampire bat that feeds on human beings, fires sonic lasers from its mouth, and is capable of flight. Gamera must use all her abilities to fight this creature, and the movie does offer some pretty cool air battles, although the Gyaos monster suit is a bit stiff in these sequences. There’s plenty of monster action in the movie, but Gamera plays a relatively minor role in it, as she takes quite a bit of time healing underwater. Gyaos’ vampire-like qualities are interesting, making the creature one of Gamera’s strongest adversaries. The creature is sort of scary, given that it is shown eating humans and drinking artificial blood.
The downside of the movie is its human-driven plotline, which will boar even the most enthusiastic kaiju fan. Then there’s Eiichi, whose constant shrilling and penchant for showing up in the unlikeliest of places will jar the short hairs of all viewers. Gamera even has to save the little squirt from Gyaos. There’s also a strange sequence in which the military starts a forest fire to battle Gyaos—today, such a move just wouldn’t fly.
Gamera vs. Gyaos is an enjoyable kaiju experience, but you will have to sit through some unnecessary melodrama and annoying kid. Watch the monster action in this one and you will not be disappointed.
The original Japanese version of Gamera vs. Gyaos is available on the recently released Gamera Legacy Collection. This bare-bone collection offers 11 Gamera movies but no commentaries or extras. Gamera vs. Gyaos in this collection is in its original Japanese with English subtitles.